Ronnie O'Sullivan says snooker stars are being treated like "lab rats" at this year's World Snooker Championship, and claims anyone unconcerned by the decision to allow some spectators into the event must have a "death wish".
Five-time champion O'Sullivan expressed support for fellow player Anthony Hamilton, who suffers from asthma and said he fears for his health at the Crucible, which is currently one of three events piloting the safe return of fans in the coronavirus pandemic.
O'Sullivan, who will start his campaign against Thailand's Thepchaiya Un-Nooh on Sunday, said: "They're treating this snooker event like lab rats really, so what can you do? You can sit here and complain and say it isn't right, but it is what it is.
"Maybe they have to start doing tests on crowds at some point. You've got to start somewhere, (so why not) start with snooker players - less insurance to pay out for Anthony Hamilton than there is for Lewis Hamilton.
"I defy anybody, if they've been keeping their distance from people for four months, to say, 'oh right, now you've got to go into a room full of people' - unless you've got a death wish, and some people have in many ways and they just don't care.
"But if you're one of those people who happens to care about your health and are taking it seriously, I totally get how he (Hamilton) feels."
Declining to directly address O'Sullivan's comments, the World Snooker Tour referenced an earlier statement in which they stressed safety was of "paramount concern", and the choice of the Crucible to stage the first indoor event with an audience constituted a "fantastic triumph" for the game.
Spectators with tickets for sessions of this year's event must undergo a series of strict protocols prior and during their visit.
O'Sullivan declined to elaborate on why he chose to play in the tournament, despite his belief that it was "not a risk worth taking".